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The Gallery of Uncomfortable Art

Part 1 Project 2021
James O'Hara
RIBA Studio | UK
Content/Disturbed is a gallery which uses art’s ability to address difficult topics combined with an ‘uncomfortable’ architecture to put people in a position to re-evaluate key societal topics. The spaces should be challenging yet exciting for curators and visitors.

The art gallery brief was developed based on social commentaries by artists such as William Hogarth, Marina Abramovic and Sonia Boyce, combined with the religious and social tensions and dichotomies of a site in the East End of London. I also operated outside my comfort-zone. Spatial analysis of John Soane’s Museum, Scottish Tower Houses, Guarini’s Sindone Chapel, Daniel Libeskind’s Holocaust Museum and Louis Kahn’s Philips Exeter Library shaped the scheme.

The design seeks to translate tense narratives into architecture. The galleries grow out and wrap around the Pillar of Community, lined with boxes of donated relics, a central beacon. The gallery routes are sinuous and disorientating whilst leading the visitor on. Sloping or glass walls and floors unsettle. Bright voids suddenly penetrate dark spaces. Sound travels unexpectedly. Movable walls facilitate accessibility, changing a space. The building leans forward imposingly on the street; it should divide opinion, a continuation of the narratives of which it is born, celebrated and notorious.

James O'Hara

Seamus Ward
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